Psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman and founding CEO of LifeLink, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, offer new tactics to flourish in an ever-changing workplace.
Psychologist Martin E.P. Seligman and founding CEO of LifeLink, Gabriella Rosen Kellerman, explain how certain psychological and physiological tools can help you thrive in today’s challenging work environment. These include learning to “embrace ambiguity” and to foster self-compassion.
Innovation and Creativity
Whether working in an office, factory or home alone, modern labor can breed anxiety, depression and a sedentary lifestyle. For 200,000 years, Seligman and Kellerman write, the human brain evolved to serve a hunter-gatherer way of life, mastering skills such as the ability to recognize poisonous plants and track prey. This lifestyle allowed people to create diverse languages, adapt to changing climates, and provided time for innovation and creativity.
Around 10,000 BC, human labor took a dramatic leap into farming. Humans no longer worked with nature but made nature work for them. Their attempts to plan for future droughts, floods and famines generated anxiety.
Our brains were not built to cope with factory life.Martin E.P. Seligman and Gabriella Kellerman
During the Industrial Revolution, factory labor moved people even further from their natural hunter-gatherer roots. Employers insisted employees work like machines – repeating movements over and over – which increased depression, alcoholism and suicide among workers.
Though most modern work differs from that of the 19th and early 20th centuries, it remains a world apart from hunting and gathering. But Seligman and Kellerman argue that some ancient skills, such as creativity, are becoming essential again. This is happening partly because today’s workforce operates amid constant uncertainty.
A McKinsey Global Institute study predicts that by 2030, automation will drive 80% of workers into unemployment or reduced pay. For example, General Motors CEO Mary Barra closed GM’s Hamtramck factory. This caused the company to lay off thousands of employees so GM could ostensibly vest in increased automated electric and autonomous car manufacturing. Many laid-off employees had to start their careers over from scratch – the difficult norm for many workers today.
Seligman and Kellerman note that psychologists of the past century mainly studied how to minimize the symptoms of mental illnesses. They failed to address mental illnesses’ root causes or ways to implement preventative measures. This failure has contributed to a society where nearly 20% of Americans take “psychiatric medications.”
The 1960s counterculture of “quasi-spirituality” sought a more profound, positive way of living. This holistic approach to life and psychological health led today’s scientists to recognize the benefits of treating mental illness before it becomes debilitating.
Resiliency fuels a stronger, happier and more successful mind-set. Slow down, process and digest emotions before you act upon them, Seligman and Kellerman advise. Appreciate the positive aspects of your life, express gratitude and find the silver lining in any situation. Avoiding focusing on worst-possible outcomes helps you find workable solutions. Treat yourself well and ignore any negative self-talk during challenging moments. Create and accomplish small, attainable goals to boost your self-confidence.
Extraordinary ideas come from employees who believe they matter to their firms and that their work is important. They persevere through difficult situations because they feel their work informs their greater purpose in life.
Develop a robust social support network at work to dispel loneliness, enhance comradery and nourish your connection to the meaning of your work. Align your values with your leader’s values. You will perform better and enjoy greater job satisfaction when you trust your boss. Choose a job that fosters self-growth and inspires you to keep striving, learning and working.
Social connection fuels your physical and mental well-being, Seligman and Kellerman write. Isolation increases the risk of mental disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD. According to psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, people feel less anxious, a physical sense of warmth and a change in their perception of time when they experience deep connections with other individuals.
We need each other.Martin E.P. Seligman and Gabriella Kellerman
Social connection enhances team collaboration, builds a sense of belonging and drives customer service performance. Working in a different location than your teammates, a lack of face-to-face conversations, and overreliance on emails, texts or social media increases depression and anxiety. Without sustained social connection, people often regard others as strangers and act with less empathy or compassion.
“Prospection” – proactively, positively planning for the future – is a unique and defining human skill. People can imagine a bright future but often feel overwhelmed when imagining how to make that future happen.
According to a McKinsey Global Institute study, creativity is the only skill automation cannot duplicate.
Maximizing creativity requires recognition that there are different ways to be original.Martin E.P. Seligman and Gabriella Kellerman
Adopt conscious practices to enhance your creative powers. Try new things, learn new skills, or find similarities between your experiences and those rooted in other fields or cultures to expand your thinking.
Cultivate “creative incubation periods.” Perform mentally undemanding tasks, such as doing the dishes or taking a shower, which allow your mind to wander into the land of “aha” moments. The more you can wait and expand your tolerance for waiting, the better the chances a sound idea will emerge.
Seligman and Kellerman explore how and why you can use creativity, resilience and meaning to flourish. They offer these skills as armor against a modern world that, they believe, tries to crush these qualities, and thus, makes them all the more valuable – both for your career prospects and overall well-being. Seligman and Kellerman offer research, statistics and plain common sense to build their case for operating in the world with conscious awareness of what nourishes you and what does not. They want you to identify what matters to you, prioritize it and learn to trust your judgment. At the same time, they urge you to recognize the value of working in a team and connecting with your colleagues.